AG examining Hatfield sending CN check, campaign information
Photocopies posted on a Facebook page include a campaign brochure, business card and a handwritten letter, which were reportedly included in a Cherokee Nation envelope mailed by Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield with a grant check for the Mount Hood Cherokees of Oregon. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Following an alleged campaign violation, the Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office is reportedly examining At-Large Tribal Council Wanda Hatfield’s sending a tribal check to an at-large Cherokee community group that included information for her re-election.
Cherokees For Civil Disclosure, a social media account, posted documentation suggesting impropriety by Hatfield, who is running against four challengers in the June 1 general election.
CN citizens have claimed that Hatfield included notes asking voters for support in CN envelopes along with CN grant checks appropriated to at-large tribal organizations.
Photocopies were posted on Facebook of a $500 check issued to the Mount Hood Cherokees of Salem, Oregon, a tribal envelope postmarked March 26 in Oklahoma City, a Hatfield campaign flier, her Tribal Council business card and a handwritten letter reading “Mt. Hood Cherokee Family. I would like your support and vote. Respectfully, Wanda.”
Posts also said the documents were submitted to the CN Election Commission, attorney general’s office, several councilors, Hatfield’s challengers and the media.
On April 3, Hatfield issued a statement in which she acknowledged sending checks and campaign materials.
“Late last month I sent grant checks earmarked for scholarships to a few At-Large Cherokee Community organizations in Cherokee Nation envelopes,” Hatfield wrote. “In some of those envelopes, I included a campaign walk card with a personal note. I mailed that correspondence from my home and personally paid for the postage, which is commonplace for me to do.”
In the statement, Hatfield said she was unaware her actions could be in violation of tribal campaign law and apologized to any affected organizations.
“While I took this action without any intention of impropriety, I now understand the unfortunate and unacceptable appearance I have given,” she wrote. “Today I am reaching out to each group who may have received this correspondence to apologize. I will forward all records of this correspondence to the Attorney General and will work fully with his office to ensure the appearance of impropriety is quickly and thoroughly corrected.”
Some tribal citizens have written Facebook posts calling for Hatfield to withdraw from the race or that the EC and Attorney General Todd Hembree disqualify her.
Hembree’s office did not go into detail on an open investigation.
“Any alleged campaign violation received is investigated to the fullest extent to ensure the June 1 Cherokee Nation election is fair and honest and that no candidate violates election laws,” Hembree said.
Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said per the tribe’s election code, “the Election Commission has referred a complaint to Office of the Attorney General and we will thoroughly investigate the complaint.”
Tribal code does not specifically address whether a candidate, if improperly influencing voters, must drop out of a political race, but “every person” found guilty of “unlawful influence of voters” is subject to sanction, according to Chapter 11A, Section 426, which reads: “Every person who shall by bribery, treats or offers of employment, attempt to influence any voter in giving his vote, or shall use threats to procure any voter to vote contrary to the inclination of such voter, or to deter him from giving his vote, shall be deemed guilty of a crime, and, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), and not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or be imprisoned for any time less than one (1) year, and exceeding three (3) months, or both by fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the Court.”
The broad latitude of possible sanctions indicates the intent of a candidate, if found to have improperly influenced voters, might be a factor when determining the severity of a penalty.